How to Balance Your New Life Abroad – There’s More to Life Than Work

How to Balance Your New Life Abroad – There’s More to Life Than Work

Relocating to a new city can be taxing on you and your dependable family’s personal life, and even more so when relocating to an entirely new country. Therefore, it is important to put plans in place to minimise the impact it has on your lives and that help to make the move as smooth as possible.

Expatriates who relocate for a new job do so for a number of different reasons, including a warmer climate, lower income tax and a higher position than they currently hold. However, with every move comes a range of complexities that could greatly affect your personal and professional life (and your families) beyond repair, so by following a few simple steps you can altogether avoid these unnecessary stresses.

1. Plan your move & manage your finances

The first step you should take before relocating is to plan the move and manage your finances. The move to your new location is likely to be a stressful (and expensive) time, so anything that you can do to make it easier and less stressful is important. In some cases your new company will provide you with financial help and support with your relocation, known as a Relocation Package, however this may not always be the case. Alternatively there are many companies that specialise in this, and understanding what they can do to make your move more smooth is a great first step. Whilst such companies won’t be cheap, doing the job yourself could be the biggest mistake you make. There are many factors to consider such as moving costs, insurances, taxes, laws and restrictions, not forgetting the on-going management during transition. So, if a company is able to assist with this and arrange for everything to be done without any hassle from your side then it is well worth the extra 30% or so in total relocation costs.

Once you know the salary on offer you can begin to plan your finances. It is important to include the relocation costs into this plan, of course, but from the point of view of on-going expenses in your new location you must understand what your salary allows you to do, and what, if any, extra benefits your company has offered you. Some companies will offer a health policy and schooling benefits for your children, which can greatly reduce your monthly expenses.

By planning and then managing your finances you can begin the task of researching the residential areas, knowing which areas you can afford and which you cannot.

2. Research the location & local area – Choosing the right area for you and your family

The next step is to understand what your financial limitations are in regards to where you can live, the schools that you can send your children to and so on. If you plan on sending your children to the top International schools and you don’t have any financial help with this from your new company then this could impact heavily on your monthly budget, reducing your options for rental property and quality of life.

With many countries and cities there are a number of benefits to living in the suburbs where you will get more for your money and you’ll experience a much more relaxed lifestyle, however this might not always be the case. In Tokyo, for example, the suburbs do offer larger living spaces, but these come at a huge cost due to the high demand. It is also important to remember that your commute to work, and your children’s commute to school, is an important part of your daily routine, and a long commute can greatly affect your professional life, which in turn, impacts greatly on your personal life. Therefore, a relaxed life in the suburbs might not be the best choice if a more central location will reduce your travelling time and make your personal life more enjoyable.

Taking everything into consideration, from your monthly budget to your daily commute, you’ll be able to research the best area for you and your family to live in. You can invest some time in understanding your local area before you relocate, reducing the impact of getting to know the local area when you move.

3. Ensure that your children are at the most suitable school

If you have children who still go to school then it is very important to choose the right school for them. Most of the major cities in the world have a whole range of International schools available which specialise in teaching expatriate children, however, it is important to also consider the local schooling system. In many countries the local schooling system is as good as, if not better than, the International schools and as a result those countries have a very high literacy rate. Hong Kong for example has a fantastic local schooling system which teaches Mandarin as its first language and English as its second, however the standard of English is very high and produces students who are both fluent in Mandarin and English, with a third and sometimes fourth language at a high level.

To ensure that you, your partner and your children have the best time possible in your new location it is important to interact with the local community as much as possible and not segregate yourself off, choosing to only interact with the expatriate community. Therefore, in some cases it is a very good idea to choose a local school that will allow your children to meet local children of their age and fully integrate with the country, which in turn will allow you, the parents, to meet local parents and be more interactive with your new country of residence.

4. Get involved with local entertainment & social groups

Implementing yourself into the local communities and social groups, as well as the expatriate ones, will allow your move and transition into your new country of residence to be a much more pleasant one, with fewer stresses and higher quality of life. Whilst it is important to engage with expat communities you should not limit yourself and your children’s professional and social lives to these alone. You may have chosen to relocate because the salary was much higher and the income tax in your new location much lower, however to reap the benefits of your new location you really must get involved with it as much as possible.

5. Actively adopt your new way of life

You can begin to integrate yourself into your new location before you actually relocate; by learning the local language, understanding any cultural differences, researching the local area and finding out what there is to do in your personal life. Once you’re there, seize the opportunity to take weekends away to countries nearby that you’ve never been before, investigating nearby sights and partaking in local and cultural celebrations.

As mentioned above, the move and early stages of integration into your new country of residence can be a very stressful time, so anything to reduce this is a good investment of your time. Learning the local language, especially in a country that does not speak many other languages, could help you to settle into your new home. Understanding where you live in respect to your children’s school, your place of work, evening entertainment hotspots and so on will help you to plan and enjoy your personal and professional life much move.

By doing your research and making a conscious effort to understand your new location (and the people in it) you will open yourself up to many more experiences and the locals will see that you’re making an effort. In return you’ll likely find that people are much more friendly towards you as they can see you want to integrate into their way of life.


Every location comes with different cultures and social groups which in turn have different values, so by understanding these you can take advantage of them and they could positively influence you and your new life. Researching your move, the location and planning your finances will not only make the relocation process much better (it’s always good to get off to a good start) but it will put you in good stead for a happier transition from your old home to your new one. By ensuring that you have made the right financial plans you will avoid any unnecessary shocks which could affect your new life aboard.

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About the author

Jamie McDermott

Involved in Business Development and Technologies at Career Intelligence. Based in the Fleet Street, London office since the start of 2014.

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